Is it real, or…

We live in a world of the unreal and unbelievable. The Technojungle can present us with fake sounds, images, smells, tastes, material items—anything. Our world and lives are full of altered or imagined realities—fakes.

A mighty note sang out from a famous singer and, when the recording was played back a glass shattered. Then came the slogan, “Is it live, or is it….” I remember this 1970s TV commercial by a prominent manufacturer of magnetic cassette tape for recording using a tape recorder. It crossed my mind as I thought about how our Technojungle reality can be faked such that we can no longer believe anything we see, hear, touch, smell—anything that touches our senses. We can find it difficult or impossible to tell the fake from the real. While interacting with online bots by text or voice, it may be fairly easy to determine if it is a real human intelligence. The day will arrive very soon when it may become impossible to tell what is a real human intelligence or an artificial intelligence. That is a shocking thought!

Look around you and note some of the Technojungle things that are either not real, fake or create something fake. When I look up from my computer I see in front of me a fan. It creates artificial, or fake, wind. The fan in our bedroom has settings that attempt to imitate real wind as it shifts, and ebbs and flows. What do you see when you look around you?

Stories have been part of human culture since the beginning, usually to entertain. Stories that are not real are called fiction. They can be a form of made-up invented reality. With the Technojungle invention of printing, fictional stories could be reproduced for any reading audience.

I worked for years in the field of graphics and printing. This is a field that has had far-reaching impacts on humankind. Think about the invention of the Technojungle printing press. Consider the power of publishing data and information. By word of mouth, information could become modified, intentionally or unintentionally, however, once on a printed page, it carried its power unaltered, real or fake, to all—even across generations of time. 

I have always been interested in photography. This is a process of capturing the light reflected in a moment of time from subjects and converting the light to a reproducible image. The Technojungle system of reproduction, fakes the original, however, it always has limitations. The most common methods for display are by printing on paper or displaying on screen, such as a TV, computer monitor, etc. These methods are not able to reproduce the full range of greys and colours of the original. The image contains a balanced range and our eyes and brain fill in the rest and accept what is reproduced. 

Everyone loves a beautiful sunset. A photo can look quite different than what we see in real life. The blue in the sky can mix with the oranges to render a muddy colour. We don’t see artifacts created by the lens, as at the bottom of this photo. Still, a photo can be just as beautiful as the real thing and our brain can adjust for some of the differences. We know that the water is usually more blue or green than brown.

A similar problem exists with printing. A Technojungle printing press is not capable of printing a photograph which contains what are called continuous tones. That is, from white to black exists an infinite range of greys. The same applies to colour with the added problem that you can’t print with every colour of the rainbow, so three colours cyan, magenta, yellow are used with a black to add contrast. This is abbreviated as CMYK K (K is used for black) and refers to anything printed on paper. On screen uses red, green, and blue. 

So to print a photograph on a Technojungle printing press, it must be converted into dots making what is called a halftone. A fifty percent shade of grey results in dots which are fifty percent of the white space. A ten percent black dot has ninety percent white around it. A ninety percent black has ten percent white. The illusion is a recognizable image that fools our eyes and mind. 

Halftone dots are arranged in rows. To print each of the four printing colors (CMYK), the halftone screens need to be angled so the rows of dots don’t cause an interference pattern, otherwise known as a moré pattern. Have you seen the dots in a printed photograph? Use a magnifying glass to look at a printed color photo. What do you see? You should see a circle with a white hole in the middle.

By now you are asking, “Where is this portion of the Technjungle safari going?” The above is a longish preamble leading to discussing that which is not real, even that which is fake.

Let’s consider some more examples. Great paintings have been carefully and painstakingly faked for centuries. These fakes required immense talent, skill, and work by a human. Fakes of masterpiece paintings have fooled people into paying large sums of money thinking they are getting a masterpiece. You may have seen, or even owned, a replica of a painting, but have you ever seen and actual fake?

By now you are asking, “Where is this portion of the Technojungle safari going?”

In the days before Technojungle computers, a technique was used to create three dimensional shaded drawings. Artists would use an airbrush. It required talent and skill. I tried it, believe me. One use of airbrushing was to make people look perfect in photographs, particularly to make women to look unnaturally beautiful so that the photo would help sell makeup. A common phrase came into use, “That’s been airbrushed.” 

Enter the computer and a Technojungle graphics program from Adobe called Photoshop. It gave the ability for a user to create even more perfect people. It could go beyond and allow a user to create something that simply never existed—not just half faked, but fully faked. 

With fictional storytelling, it was not wise to believe everything you heard. With printing, it was not wise to believe everything you read. With faked paintings, airbrushing, and eventually Technojungle Photoshopping, suddenly it was not wise to believe everything you saw.

I like to watch period movies. These days, any era or place on Earth can be rendered and replicated in a movie.It is made possible through Computer-generated Imagery (CGI). Technojungle CGI has been used for years to add to what location and set props could not easily, or were impossible to, produce.

I remember when the movie Titanic came out. It created quite a buzz because many of the ship scenes were faked using CGI. In a short documentary, they showed a shot of the ship at a distance with little tiny people walking around. Then you saw them close up. It was like being on the ship—going back in time. Other shots, as the ship was sinking, showed the immensity of the ship as people were falling into the water, also faked.

Recently, we watched a movie where real animals were able to talk. Not only did their lips move in sync with the voices, their body language and expressions matched.

Fantasy movies have also made use of Technojungle CGI to completely fake amazing scenes. More movies than you think use CGI, just watch the credits at the end. Can you describe some movies with aspects that were faked?

These movies are employing two kinds of computer enhances or generated realities—augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Can you explain the differences between these two realities?

I recall there was a place to get your hair done and they had a website where you could use a photo of yourself and try various hairstyles. I would call this the first time I saw the very beginnings of Augmented Reality. 

I also remember hearing about an online virtual world called Second Life. I have never explored it, however, my understanding is that you can be whoever you want and you can fly around. The first time I saw Titanic I was amazed. In later years, I was less amazed, and was commenting in my mind, “it’s pretty good, but not quite realistic.”

Augmented reality adds virtual things to real images in a usually three-dimensional Technojungle online space to enhance what you see. Virtual reality is a usually three-dimensional Technojungle online space where everything is computer generated. These have been around since the early 2000s. What is different today is the use of better three-dimensional goggles and much more powerful artificial Intelligence. While in some cases you can look at a screen, with googles you can look around and move around to see the online space as if it were real. 

By now it is clear in our safari that the Technojungle gets more complicated as it brings the future to us. With every new technology arriving with wonderful possibilities, there lurks the negative, dare we say, sinister side of possibilities. So what is different about fakes today and why might we be facing unimaginable fake realities? Can you think of some examples and describe the possible impacts?

Earlier in our Technojungle safari we took a brief look at Fake News. This is news or information that is usually maliciously propagated by people, groups, organizations, corporations, even governments, to purposely mislead, or lead people astray. Fake News can be used to manipulate the perceptions of people about actual facts. Fake News includes misinformation (false or inaccurate) and disinformation (more like propaganda). 

While social media has been the most common way of distributing fake news, it goes back a long way. Readers who were around before Technojungle social media will remember that tabloid newspapers were popular ways to be entertained by fake news. Have you ever read any tabloid newspapers, or a Technojungle online counterpart? Why did you read it?

Fake News is not new, however, the term became a sensation after a close presidential race, and when a president began using it often.

Along with fake news is clickbate. These are headlines written to carefully entice readers to click to read a story in the online Technojungle. There’s one more type of fake news and it is related to clickbate. At the bottom of many Technojungle webpages you can see a series of boxes in a grid with thumbnail photos and a clickbate headline. These types of fake news are called chumboxes. Usually they are intended as advertising. Remember from earlier that advertising is charged back to the advertiser according to the number or clicks. This is just another way for people to make money, often with fake information.

The preponderance of fake news has led to fact-checkers and specialized fact-checking websites. However, one might wonder if the fake news is actually fake, or being labeled as fake for a particular reason which may not be known. Who checks the fact-checkers? Have you read any Technojungle fake news?

It’s worth mentioning here that fake news may also be labeled as a conspiracy theory. In this case the Technojungle information suggests that some person, organization, group, corporation, or government is behind some action or event in some covert and influential activity. Can you describe some conspiracy theories you have encountered? Did you believe the information? Have you ever found a conspiracy theory that turned out to be true? How about actual news or information that turned out to be a conspiracy theory? Do you believe that there are attempts to cover up any activities, perhaps labeling them as a conspiracy theory?

Also related to fake news is deep fakes. With deep fakes, it is other types Technojungle media that are faked. For example, the head of one person can be placed on the body of another person doing something the first person would not, or did not, do. Have you ever come across such a photo?

Here is Science World of Vancouver, BC, except there seems to be some extra landmarks in Vancouver.

It gets really insidious with video because Technojungle video is so convincing. Why do you think video is more convincing than many other forms of media? Are we more passive when we watch videos? Are we less likely to question what we are seeing and hearing? What other reasons can you think of?

So when, as with making animals talk, a video shows someone saying something they never said, it is difficult to spot and disprove. Have you ever been able to spot a deep fake? Do you try to spot deep fakes?

It gets even worse concerning fake news and deep fakes. Manipulating text, images, audio, and video employs AI. Technojungle AI makes creating fakes easy and even automated through algorithms. How can AI make something fake seem even more believable? 

Rumor mills and propaganda wars can be automated and, with enticing clickbate, the fake material can go viral in the Technojungle—that is, it gets read or viewed by a lot of people. 

The predominance of fake news and deep fakes in our Technojungle media outlets raises a number of questions, particularly when AI is used. In traditional media, not necessarily social media, professional journalists and content creators would carefully verify and fact-check their own material. As discussed in book one, this process is time consuming and traditional media outlets are challenged by both time and finances to keep up with Technojungle social media outlets which don’t do the same level, if any, fact-checking. Do you get your news from traditional news sources or primarily from social media sources?

During the pandemic, information has been difficult, if not impossible, to truly sort out. From experts changing guidelines to conspiracy theorists spreading alternative views of what has been going on. I made it my task to study both sides, and everything in between. I mentioned earlier that Technojungle social media outlets began censoring material deemed inappropriate and misleading, which actually meant the label conspiracy theory. This was a violation of free speech.

We will be discussing ethics later. Questions of ethics arise in many areas of the Technojungle we have been exploring. 

This is a good place to ask, “What is real and what is reality?” Before reading on, can you explain what real and reality mean to you? 

We have been dealing with what is real and what is not real, or fake. Another idea that is discussed in both this book and the first book is that which is artificial in the Technojungle. The big topic is artificial intelligence. Since the Technojungle can provide ways of altering what is real, it is fair, and necessary to define what real means and what is reality.

I remember when it was common to say, “Why can’t you just be real?” or, “Just be real.” What this meant was to suggest that the person was not being who they really are. They might be pretending, either consciously, or unconsciously, to be different from who they really are. In a discussion, someone might ask, “Are you talking about a real person, or a made-up one?” 

As for anything other than a person, the definition is similar to the last one above. Does something exist, or is it made-up? Is it imagined, or is it a fact? 

Next is reality. Reality is the way things are, the state they actually exist, rather than ideas, or suggesting that things are not what they are.

Artificial Intelligence brings us the ability to alter or change Technojungle reality to make the fake seem as real as possible. Nowhere is this more amazing than humanoid robotics. The goal here is to make machine that is as close to being a human as possible. Another name for a Technojungle machine replication of a human is android. Have you seen any humanoid robots (androids) either in person or in images and videos? What did you think? How did the robot make you feel?

Artificial Intelligence brings us the ability to alter or change Technojungle reality to make the fake seem as real as possible.

The robots I have seen at the time of this writing have been rather archaic compared to an actual human and not even close to ones depicted in movies and TV. In other words, not very convincing.

What will happen when Technojungle androids become very convincing? It turns out that any object that resembles human attributes can evoke emotional responses. The greater the degree of resemblance, the more intense the emotional response, which can vary from fascination to repulsion and eeriness. In time, other more positive emotions may come into play.

This response to human-like attributes is called the uncanny valley. The phenomenon has been observed in response to Technojungle objects that clearly do not resemble a human, yet through voice, for example, may make a person feel it is somehow alive in a human way.

It is not real, however, it seems human-like. We can see that it is clearly not human. This brings us back to the question of, what happens when Technojungle androids become very convincing? What can you imagine? 

Have you seen androids in movies and TV shows? How were the people around them interacting and reacting? How do you think you would interact and react? Do you think you could ever get used to a machine that is difficult to detect as not being a human being?

One day we may very well face truly convincing human-like Technojungle machines—an android—and have to ask, Is it real, or…?

In the meantime, we already have many fake, unreal, things in our human world to deal with: a voice on the phone, a chat, text messages, E-mails, images, videos, the list can keep going. AI can make the fake convincing enough to fool us. Take some time to list other things you have, or may, face, where you should be asking, “Is it real, or…?

As the Technojungle rushes to make the unreal, or fake, be more real, we must strive ever more to learn about being better human beings and living in this world of technology—the Technojungle.

We can be fooled, even confused, if we are not carful about the unreal. Still much of these technological wonders are part of inventions designed to assist or help us. The artificial world of the Technojungle wants to grow even closer to you and deeper into your human life to see what makes you tick and to help you through your life. We stand at the edge of unimaginable change that could make, or break us as human beings.


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